When I was a kid, my Dad owned a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It was huge, clunky and prone to conking out on a regular basis, but I loved it. It provided me, my brother and our friends with many happy hours recording ourselves laughing, joking and generally fooling around. Those innocent(ish) hours of childhood were captured on tape for us to enjoy for all eternity. Or so we thought.
One fateful day it stopped working. No matter what we did to revive it, it steadfastly refused to work. We scoured the Yellow Pages (remember that?) to find someone who could restore it to its former glory, but everyone we spoke to provided the same answer; “That’s obsolete – we no longer support or repair that machine I’m afraid”.
I never did find out what happened to that reel-to-reel player, or indeed the reels that once used to grace it. As a result, those memories of childhood disappeared forever.
Echoes of the future
If we’re not careful, a lifetime of photographic memories could quite easily be consigned to the same bottomless dustbin of time, especially in this transient, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it digital age. At the moment we all enjoy the convenience of uploading photographs (or the ubiquitous jpg as it’s sometimes known) to our favourite social media channel, or looking at photographs of our friends and family on the technological wonder of our age, the smartphone. But what happens if the jpg file format is discontinued? What happens if those lifetime of memories, ensconced away on CD’s, DVD’s, hard drives and phones are no longer accessible? Or what’s the impact if CD’s, DVD’s, hard drives and smart phones themselves all become obsolete? The scenario is almost like a modern day version of Back to the Future – watch in horror as the memories of a life you thought you had disappear before your very eyes…
Preserving the Past
All of my wedding clients have received digital images on either a CD or a USB drive, because (a) that’s what I offer at the moment, and (b) that’s what they want (or at least, that’s what they’ve been led to believe they want, but that’s definitely another debate for another time). For a while now this has sat uncomfortably with me, especially after writing The True Value of Wedding Photography post and holding and touching my parent’s wedding photographs in the process of sharing those thoughts.
As 2016 approaches, I’m currently addressing what I want to offer my clients, and what I want my business to stand for. I want to provide a special service that they just won’t receive anywhere else, and this includes providing physical products. I suppose the word I’m searching for here is authenticity – I’m analysing everything, from how I capture process my photographs (and the equipment I use to do that), to how I present myself when I meet clients (I want them to meet “me”, not a sales-driven, pushy version of me), to how I deliver their final wedding images. I know you’re thinking, “Well, he would say that!”, but I’ve been looking at a multitude of wedding albums and presentation products lately and genuinely believe that a tangible product is the only authentic way of presenting my client’s memories. I accept paper fades and disintegrates after decades of exposure to light or grubby fingers, but my parent’s wedding photos have been well looked after and still appear as new as the day they were printed. While these photos exist I’ll always be able to look at them, whereas photographs that reside on a floppy disc or zip drive may well be lost forever.